Guilford panel offers school upgrade options

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Feb. 28, 2008

GUILFORD — Two Guilford schools are in need of at least some repairs, and the price tag for construction could range from $28 million to $112 million, members of a community task force told the Board of Education Wednesday.

The meeting was the culmination of more than three years of investigation of the conditions at the district’s school buildings, especially Guilford High School and Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School.

The Community Task Force on School Facilities presented seven options to the board, including basic health and safety repairs at the two schools, an overall grade reconfiguration at several schools, and “renovate as new” projects for the high school and middle school.

The most expensive option would be to build completely new facilities, but task force co-Chairmen Mauro Rubbo and Mary Jo Kestner said that option would address all of the school district’s current infrastructure and educational program needs.

An architecture firm hired by the district put the cost of replacing Adams Middle School, assuming work begins in 2012, at $69.8 million. The cost for a new high school would be about $112 million.

For a house with an assessed value of $300,000, the presenters said, those figures would translate into $426 for the middle school work in the 2012-13 fiscal year, when the town’s debt load would begin. The new high school could increase taxes by $687 for a homeowner with a $300,000 house.

The basic renovations, which would cover health and safety concerns, have an estimated cost of $28 million for the middle school and $60.7 million for the high school.

The third major option, for a “renovate like new” project, would carry a total price tag of $59.7 million for the middle school and $93.7 million for the high school.

The task force also assumed that about 30 percent of the cost could be reimbursed by the state.

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss called Wednesday’s presentation an “unprecedented meeting” for Guilford.

“We have invested far less in infrastructure than comparable towns and part of that is not necessarily bad — we have been cautious,” Bloss said. “But we must make sure that caution does not become irresponsibility.”

In January 2003, Guilford residents defeated a $55 million proposal to renovate Abraham Baldwin Middle School and replace Adams Middle School with a new building.

The presentation included a timeline for construction that would set a referendum on the issue for December, with construction beginning in 2012. Bloss said Wednesday that the Board of Education will hold tours of the buildings and forums for public input.

The high school tour is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 19 with the public forum at 7:30. The Adams Middle School tour is set for March 27 at 6:30 p.m.

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